Gone but not forgotten, Coach Wilson stays true to 907 roots
Now in his fifth season as men’s basketball at Adams State University in Colorado, Wilson has surrounded himself with Alaskans. It’s not by chance.
But it’s not by design either.
Wilson, of East High fame, has always kept an eye on the talent coming out The Last Frontier, whether he was coaching at Southern Utah, Idaho State or Adams State in Colorado.
“I feel a responsibility to help my community for sure. Alaska raised me,” Wilson told me. “Chuck White opened doors for me through basketball that have richly blessed me. His only expectation of me has been to pay it forward. I have worked hard to honor that. I have had the blessing to leverage my opportunities on behalf of many Alaskans. It is the least I can do for all I have received.”
Wilson has a pair of outstanding Alaska standouts at NCAA D2 Adams State in Travante Williams and Justin Kauffman, both of Anchorage.
Williams, of Mt. Edgecumbe fame, is a 6-foot-4 junior guard. He is averaging 10.2 points in 16 games with a high of 24 points.
“Travante is a high motor player and high motor guys do well on the court in our system,” Wilson said. “We pressure you defensively and attack you offensively. He is both those things as a player.”
Williams is shooting 51 percent from the floor and has had as many as 7 steals in one game.
Kauffman, of West High fame, is a 6-foot-2 senior guard. He is averaging 6.3 points in 15 games with a high of 21.
He is knocking down 42 percent of his 3s.
“Justin is a high caliber 3-point shooter who is a true believer,” Wilson said. “He does what he is supposed to do, when he is supposed to do it, as well as he can do it. I never doubt which name on the jersey he is playing for.”
The Adams State team features fellow Alaskans Chuck White, an assistant coach; Ozelle Jamestown, a senior guard; and Jordan Jamestown, a student assistant coach.
“We have three players from Alaska and three coaches. We also have four players from Washington. The Pacific Northwest is well represented,” Wilson said. “Travante and especially Justin, who also plays football here, are respected for their athletic ability. I don’t think kids care where you are from.”
Alaska basketball has come a long way over the years. This year there are a total of 12 Alaska men and women playing NCAA D1 basketball and dozens more playing at lower levels.
When Wilson came out of East High in the mid-1980s on his way to play college basketball it was a rarity for an Alaskan to play at the next level. Now it’s the norm.
“Alaska players are currently reaping the benefit of something that began before many of them were born. It has fortunately continued under the direction of capable people who care about Alaska kids,” he said. “You turn on the TV and you can see Alaska kids playing at a very high level more frequently. That is a good thing. Many paved the way for that to happen, including some who could have played at top D1 schools themselves, but they were not as exposed.”
Wilson remains true to his Alaska roots no matter how far he travels. He remains involved with the Alaska Basketball Development Program, which provides free youth camps.
“Alaska is my home,” he said. “I fly on the wings of many people from Alaska who made my journey possible. I am here because they were there.”